Whales keep washing up on California beaches as scientists call deaths ‘unusual’

Whales keep washing up on California beaches as scientists call deaths ‘unusual’
The 47ft gray whale found near San Francisco last week brings the total 13 whales washed ashore in California this year

More than a dozen whales have died on the shores of California this year, with the series of “unusual” deaths linked to ship accidents and the climate crisis, according to a new report.

A gray whale was found late last week at Pacifica State Beach, The Los Angeles Times reported.

A cause of death was not established and a necropsy was not carried out before the carcas was towed back into the sea.

Previous deaths have been attributed to accidents with ships and malnutrition, potentially a side effect of a warming climate.

The 47ft (14metre) long male discovered last week is the 10th gray to be found in the Bay Area surf. A pygmy sperm whale and a fin whale have also washed ashore.

Earlier this year four whales washed ashore in just nine days. 

In total, an estimated 13 whales have been found dead in California this year.

Michael Milstein, a spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told the Times that the deaths were an “unusual event” and that scientists had launched an investigation into them back in 2019, when 34 whales died in the state.

Last year it was 18.

The population is still considered healthy. In 2016, scientists estimated roughly 26,000 whales living off the western edge of North America; they now peg that number at closer to 20,000.

Most gray whales migrate annually from the inlets of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula to Arctic feeding grounds in the Bering and Chukchi seas. It is the longest migration among mammals, with a round-trip distance of 12,000 miles.

Following the death of the whale last week, marine biologists issued calls to the Biden administration to urge the US Navy to work with them to review safety protocols after Her Majesty’s Australian Ship (HMAS) allegedly fatally injured two whales whilst entering San Diego Naval Base.

The Center for Biological Diversity on Monday said in a statement to the National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Navy: “These dead whales are grisly proof of the Navy’s dire ongoing threat to vulnerable marine mammals. We’re asking the Biden administration to find a better balance of marine protection with military readiness.”

The carcass was hauled off the beach earlier on Tuesday.

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